ON The Night Shift
Pamela Stone

ON The Night Shift

One rainy night as the wind blew outside, everything was moving smoothly inside Wolf Box Board Company. The soft sounds of machines running , the occasional buzzers and humming of forklifts fill the factory. The windows sounds with the rain hitting them and the wind blowing through them. Workers are completing their tasks while in their own personal thoughts. The mood is generally mellow and there is barely a spoken word as work is being done, except for giving direction.


The office manager finishes his paperwork at his desk and then checks the time on his watch. He is expecting a new hire in just a few minutes. He walks down to the front entrance to greet him.  Right on time, in walks an elderly man of about 70.

The manager extends his hand out to shake the man's hand.

      " Ah Ralph , good to have you join our team! "


The manager takes Ralph to the locker room to hang his coat and put his lunch and things in his assigned locker.

They then head to the factory floor.


The manager and Ralph come to a short woman with her black hair in a bun.  The manager introduces Ralph and tells her to show him around and find some work for him to do. The manager then leaves things to Candice.


After Candice shows Ralph around the factory and all that it takes to complete a task , Ralph tells her he understands and begins to feed the machine with cardboard. He whistles loudly catching the attention of his new co-workers.  They are not used to hearing anything other than the usual factory sounds. They glare at him as if to will him to stop. Ralph pays no mind and continues to work. 


Later on break , Ralph gets a Styrofoam  cup of coffee in the break room. He turns and notices a woman sitting at a table. She has her blonde head of hair resting on her hand. She looks like she could be pretty but seems tired with bags under her eyes and a face full of worry.

Ralph comes over to her and notices her name is Stephanie from her name tag.


    “Hey there! I'm Ralph. You know it’s all going to work out. Don't worry any more. Smile!” Ralph says in a joyful manner.


The young lady looks at him with anger and then gets up and walks away.  Stephanie doesn't see any solution to her problem. Her husband has left her for another woman leaving her alone to raise her two children ages 4 and 6. She is struggling to make ends meet. Even though her shift ends at 4am she comes home makes lunches, takes a shower then it's time to get up her kids for breakfast then school. At 3pm she picks them up and then after the babysitter comes she is off to work. The cycle continues day in and day out.


Ralph shrugged off Stephanie’s angered dismissal and moved over to the other table where

Ray, Chase , Jonie and Kate are sitting and discussing among themselves their personal concerns.


 Ray is upset with worry because his daughter Sarah is terminally Ill and needs expensive  treatments he can not afford. 


Chase is caring for his elderly mother who has early signs of Alzheimer's.  He worries about leaving her alone at night while he is working. He too can not afford treatments that can slow the disease down or get a nurse to help in her care. 


Jonie has been working for the company for 4 months and is recovering from the death of her husband from cancer. She is left with a mountain of bills and the bank is about to foreclose on her home.


Kate doesn't have her own car so she rides the bus or depends on others for rides.

Her apartment is falling apart.

The kitchen pipes are rusted and are being held together by tape. The floor tiles are coming up and the subfloor is exposed. There are cracks on the walls plaster is coming off. The landlord seems to ignore her concerns. She wants to move but doesn't have the financial means to do so.


Ralph sits next to them with a big smile. 

“Don't worry, you all are going to be fine. Smile! “

Ray gets up and shouts..

“Who the hell are you? You know nothing about us and you have no right to comment in our private conversation.  We don't know you and you have only been here one shift. Kindly butt out!”

They all get up abruptly with anger across their faces.

“Some people gotta be noisey!”

Kate says as she walks away.


Back on the factory floor, Ralph continues to whistle and sing loudly at the displeasure of his new co-workers. By the end of the night shift he has everyone pissed off. The line at the time clock was met with sneers and grumbles toward Ralph. Ralph didn't seem to care or even aware at the hostile mood going around.

He keeps singing and smiling and as he left he gleefully shouted an exuberant message.


“Everything is going to be alright, smile! Whoo hoo!”


He drove off leaving everyone thinking What a weirdo he is.


As the shift manager finishes his nights paperwork the morning shift manager comes in to the office.


“So how did things go on the night shift?”

She sits in a chair in front of the desk. The night manager, with a concerning sigh says:

“Well , I don't think that new guy Ralph is going to have it easy here. He is a good worker but annoys the shit out of everyone. Thanks for hiring him for me but next time let me hire for this shift.”

         

The morning manager gives him a puzzled look.


“Um, I didn't hire him.”


The night manager starts looking through papers and opening desks drawers.


“Well sure you did. You left me a note. Telling me you hired a man named Ralph and what time he would be coming in… I can't seem to find the note though.”

The morning manager stands up and puts her hand on the desk.

“Bill! I assure you I did not hire anyone nor did I leave you a note about it”

Bill exhaled hard and sat in his chair.


“I don't know what's going on. I guess it's a strange misunderstanding. When he shows up for work next time I will tell him he doesn't really work here.” 

“By the way,  that was some storm last night huh?”

The morning shift manager laughs .

“What is going on with you and the night shift? I live 10 blocks from here and it was a clear, calm night.” 


Bill gathers his things and leaves the building without another word. He scratches his head in confusion as he sees a dry landscape. Gets in his car and drives home until he returns later for the next night shift.



THE NEXT NIGHT:




Bill enters his office and sits in his desk chair. In Front of him on the desk, he sees an envelope addressed to him. He opens the letter and reads the contents. He smiles and laughs in elation.

He rushes to the factory floor and shouts for everyone to stop and gather around for an announcement. For the first time in a long while, the sounds of machines stop. Everything is quiet and everyone listens to Bill intently.  He announces that the company has been bought out by another company. Not another box company but a health food and wellness company.

Everyone begins to grumble fearing they have lost their jobs but Bill quickly tells them that the the new owner wants to keep them all on as employees and everyone will get a hefty raise starting immediately! 


     “That's right and we will give you another raise once the transition is made and we are up and running.” 


Everyone draws their attention to a short woman in her 40’s with brown hair and blue business dress. She continues to walk across the factory floor to where the group has gathered.


     “Hello, my name is Freya Holmes-Murray, I am the new owner and happy to be seeing my late fathers dream come true. He lived a healthy life and wanted to help others live a healthy life. He loved to cook and developed healthy recipes. He also developed healthy drinks filled with healthy vitamins that are good for your body and mind. He was always helping people and had a positive outlook on life no matter what the situation was. He was getting things finalized until his untimely death 3 months ago in a rainstorm when he lost control of his car and crashed. Before his death he would always pass by here and comment how this facility would be perfect to house his company. I took things over after his death to see his dream come true. While I was rummaging through his things I found four envelopes with a note that said that these people would be new executives in the company but would have the opportunity to work part time so they could take care of their family needs but would have a full time salary.”


Freya Calls out the names of the new executives and hands out the envelopes for them.

Stephanie Barker, Ray Cooper, Jonie Grey, Chase Gonzales and Kate Johnson receive their new positions with excitement, elation and relief. They all huddle together with their arms around each other and the tears flow, for they all know that their worries are now a thing of the past. 

Everyone on the factory floor erupts in thunderous applause in celebration.


Freya holds up a photo and announces that her father, Ralph Holmes, would be so proud of this moment and so full of hope for this new company. The applause stops abruptly and  Bill, the night manager, does a double take.


    “This is your father?” Freya nods in agreement. “You say he died 3 months ago in a rainstorm?”


Freya tells him yes and then notices that everyone is looking at her with disbelief. The factory is silent for a moment and then turns to soft murmuring as everyone is trying to make sense of what they are seeing and experienced. 


     Freya: “What's wrong?

     Stephanie: “That man was here last night.” 

Freya: “No, that's impossible. My father was killed 3 months ago. It could not have been him.”


    Chase walks closer to Freya and says: “That man was here last night. He was so positive and upbeat. His whistling was getting on everyone's nerves. He told us everything was going to be ok but we were all so self absorbed with our own problems we were unkind to him. He paid us no mind and kept on whistling. We should have been more kind and listened to him.”


    Jonie: “It was his spirit that came to us to assure us  we were going to be ok. It was his final deed before he passed on, to check on his new employees and let us know things are getting better.”


    Freya: “That sounds like my father. Even after death he  was making sure people were being taken care of.” 


    As time passed on from weeks to months to years, the new company prospered and so did its employees.  Stephanie, Ray, Jonie, Chase and Kate were able to move on to better lives just a few months after the company started. They were able to help the people in their lives and move on to the better things in life. All thanks to Ralph J. Holmes and his memory that lives on in everyone.






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